Premier League records, heavyweight world title unifiers, tech giants wrestling Sky for live football, a Scottish Six Nations surge... it could all happen in 2018. Here are six sporting questions we can't wait to find out the answer to next year.
Can Manchester City go the whole Premier League season unbeaten?
Pep Guardiola’s City appear unstoppable. After 20 games so far this season, they’d already netted 61 goals. To put that in perspective, in their unbeaten “Invincibles” season of 2003-04 Arsenal only scored 13 more goals across the full campaign. Chelsea’s 2004-5 side, who currently hold the record for most points won in a single season, only scored 72 goals in 38 games. The Premier League title appears all but won, but finding out just how many records City will send tumbling next year will be anything but boring.
Will Anthony Joshua unify the division?
In 2016 Anthony Joshua first won a world title. In 2017 he was crowned king of the heavyweight division in an epochal barnstormer against former ruler Wladimir Klitschko. But 2018 could be the year in which he earns truly legendary status by claiming the belts still missing from his collection. Fellow title-holders Joseph Parker and Deontay Wilder would provide stern tests and big interest should either fight be made, but the real storyline to watch with interest next year may be whether fellow Brit Tyson Fury can get himself back into contention after having a drugs ban lifted. Expect trash talk and promoter politics aplenty.
Will a tech giant buy Premier League TV rights?
The tender for the 2019-22 Premier League TV rights has been issued, with more live games on offer than ever before. Could that prompt a tech giant such as Facebook and Amazon — both of which have made no secret of their interest in live sport — to shake up every football fans’ watching habits by outbidding traditional broadcasters? It’s been touted as a very real possibility by industry insiders ever since Sky and BT made the entire division members of football’s financial elite with the combined £5.1bn they paid in 2015, although the companies themselves have remained coy. Amazon have already made a major play in tennis, snapping up ATP Tour rights, however, while Facebook bid $600m (£450m) for Indian Premier League cricket rights.
Are Scotland genuine Six Nations contenders?
It’s a question that no longer sounds ridiculous, not after Gregor Townsend’s side impressed so much in last month’s autumn internationals by pushing the All Blacks to the brink and crushing Australia with a record score. And they did the latter without high-profile players Stuart Hogg, Greig Laidlaw, WP Nel and Richie Gray. There were moments of promise under previous head coach Vern Cotter — Scotland beat both Ireland and Wales at last year’s Six Nations — but no consistency to follow those through. Performances in the autumn, as well as the demonstrated strength in depth, suggests this time could be different.
Is Tiger Woods’s comeback for real?
The 14-time Major winner heads into 2018 ranked 664th in the world. It’s been a tough and turbulent few years for Tiger Woods, with four back surgeries restricting him to just 20 tournaments since 2014. When he has signalled his intention to return to golf’s elite, his efforts have largely fallen flat. But an assured and — more importantly — seemingly comfortable and pain-free performance in his first competitive golf outing for almost a year at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month suggested the fist-bump could be back for good.
Where does English cricket go from here?
At the time of writing, England are 3-0 down in Australia and enduring another testing trip in the Baggy Green’s backyard. Last time England came home from the Ashes empty handed, it spelt the end for head coach Andy Flower. Will the same fate befall Trevor Bayliss? And how do England recover before the world’s No1 team India — and another fearsome batsman to rival Steve Smith in Virat Kohli — arrive for a five-match series in the summer?